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Romy Vager on Psychedelic Furs – Forever Now

Still plenty of essentials on the way in this strange timeline we’re on and RVG’s sophomore LP is pretty high on that list. The band’s debut was an emotionally fraught, tumultuous record that stood high with ‘80s classics from Echo and the Bunnymen, The Go-Betweens, or Siousxie Sioux. The band has only refined and expanded on that sound with their follow-up, out soon on Fire Records and Feral aims to be one of the best of the year. Naturally, that put the band’s songwriter and driving force Romy Vager high atop the list of inquiries for a Hidden Gems, and she digs further into that ‘80s influence with a spotlight on Psychedelic Furs’ mid-period gem Forever Now. While its predecessor may have gotten all the acclaim for the John Hughes tie-in, this one begs further exploration and Vager explains how it came into her life and the impact its had on her own writing.

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Traffik Island’s Zak Olsen on Public Nuisance – Gotta Survive

Keeping the wheels turning on Hidden Gems and pulling more and more psychic diggers into the fold. This week the honors fall to Zak Olsen, the Aussie indie utilitarian who crops up in quite a few RSTB faves, to be honest. From the fractured pop ooze of Hierophants to the crushing grooves of ORB, Zak has done time in The Bonniwells, The Frowning Clouds, and keeps time in his own solo work as Traffik Island. The latter’s work caught my ear a few years back with a spot-on deep-dive into loner folk, but of late the band has embraced an aesthetic of psychedelic beat driven on an engine of Library Music funk. Zak gives some background on California garage band Public Nuisance and how their Nuggets-era works came into his life. Check out Zak’s take on the band’s works below and head to Flightless for the latest Traffik Island thumper.

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Matt Lajoie on Lula Côrtes e Lailson – Satwa

Over the years Matt Lajoie has shown up here under many names — with psych folk searchers Herbcraft, alongside his partner in Ash & Herb, traversing folk under his own name, honing kosmiche waves in Starbirthed and Eastern enclaves as ML Wah. He’s back under his own name with one of the most blissful offerings in his vast catalog this year, but before that graces the waiting turntables, Matt sat down to pick out record that’s been lost to the ethers for Hidden Gems. Matt picked Lula & Lailson’s 1973 album psychedelic opus Statwa. Check out how this one came into his life and the imprint it left on him and his own writing below and nab a pre-order of the entrancing new LP Everlasting Spring.

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Jeffrey Alexander on Keith Jarrett’s – Restoration Ruin

Among the artists that dominated RSTB last year, Jeffrey Alexander was one of the most prolific, showing up with Dire Wolves (in one of their best yet), on a solo jaunt for Feeding Tube, and playing the RSTB anniversary show with a new group dubbed The Heavy Lidders. The latter featured members of Elkhorn and Bardo Pond laying waste to the blues in fine fashion. In anticipatetion for Dire Wolves’ latest album, on the way next month from Centripetal Force, Jeffrey’s contributed a pick to the Hidden Gems series. Picking out an oddity in the typically jazz-centric catalog of Keith Jarrett, he sheds some new light on an often maligned piece of the artist’s repertoire. Check out how this record came into Alexander’s life and what makes it such a treasure.

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Elkhorn’s Jesse Sheppard on Bruce Palmer’s – The Cycle Is Complete

One of my top picks from last year was, without hesitation, the double LP darkness and light journey of Elkhorn. The double dose of lysergically locked guitars on Elk Jam and Sun Cycle pushed the band beyond anything in their catalog and sets up some pretty high expectations for their upcoming shut-in brainstorm The Storm Sessions. I’ve gotten to run a few shows over the past year with the band’s Jesse Sheppard on the bill and know that he’s not only a consummate musican but also a devoted collector. Naturally I figured he’d be a great fit for the Hidden Gems series and, as such, he has shed some much-needed light on a Buffalo Springfield-adjacent obscurity that sent a bit of a middle finger to the record industry on its release. Check out Jesse discussing Bruce Palmer’s The Cycle is Complete below.

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RSTB Best of 2019

2019’s drawing to a close, so I suppose this is the place to tie it all up. I’ve mentioned in years past that ‘best’ is a hard line to draw around the music from the year. From a blog perspective ‘favorite’ seems more appropriate, but then for all intents and purposes my choices are qualitatively the best to me, if not necessarily quantitatively best in the sense of the zeitgeist. The drive to figure out what’s best seems to just consolidate consensus and we’re all treated to dozens of lists that cross over with each other, especially in the top spots. I’ve long been a proponent of niche. I say long live finding your voice and letting others find theirs – we can all compare notes and discover new music in the process. I don’t need anyone to sand the edges and offer up a list that’s all inclusive. I like the edges. These are my favorites from a great year, edges and all.

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Hurt Valley’s Brian Collins on Tara Jane O’Neil – Peregrine

Any new Woodsist signing is cause for inquiry, but the debut from Hurt Valley is an amber-hued slice of Cosmic Americana that’s ticking a lot of boxes over here. The album channels the windswept, sea salt sanded vision of West Coast country-psych that permeated the best private press issues. He’s finding common ground with everyone from Jim Sullivan to Rose City Band and I couldn’t be happier to have Brian contribute a pick to the Hidden Gems series. Check out the story by hind how Tara Jane Oneil’s excellent debut became an illicit part of his record collection.

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Charles Rumback on Houndog – S/T

The new collaboration between Ryley Walker and Charles Rumback is a highlight for both artists, but while you might be more familiar with Walker’s extensive output, there’s plenty to dig into with his foil’s career as well. The Chicago percussionist has worked with Jazz trio Colorist alongside John Hughes and Charles Gorczynski and found contemporaries in Fred Lonberg-Holm and Nick Macri in Stirrup. He’s touched through experimental country with The Horses Ha and led his own records exploring jazz under his own name. Rumback’s been a lynchpin in the Chicago scene for over fifteen years and so I asked him to drop in a pick to the Gems series. Interestingly he’s also chosen a collaboration, the late ‘90s team-up of Mike Halby from Canned Heat and David Hidalgo from Los Lobos under the name Houndog. Check out how this came into Charles’ life and the impact it’s had on him.

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Andy Cabic on Jane Getz – “No Ordinary Child”

Andy Cabic’s been a mainstay here at RSTB and his latest LP captures a new dose of mountain air in his sails. As I mentioned last week in my review, “Themes of wanderlust, lost love and new beginnings have (rightly) earned the album comparisons to Tom Petty’s mid-life high water mark Wildflowers. Shades of R.E.M. jangle up and there’s a rootsy honesty that knocks at Crazy Horse’s door.” It’s one of Cabic’s most unfussed, and yet one of his most affecting works. The Gems column always offers a chance to look behind the curtain on what an artist finds dear and Cabic shines a proper light on a country treasure that’s certainly in line with the amber hues and cool breezes thrumming through the wires of his own recent songwriting. Check out Andy’s take on an early ’70s forgotten treasure from Jane Getz below.

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